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October 7, 2010

Eurasian Conference Begins Confidently

International Meetings: Call to boycott gathering falls flat

Maureen Rouhi

Maureen Rouhi
POSTER CHAT Maha Rashed Abdalhah (left), a graduate student at the University of Jordan, discusses her work on anticancer natural products with Salah Akkal, a chemistry professor at the University of Algeria.
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The 11th Eurasia Conference on Chemical Sciences opened last week at the King Hussein Bin Talal Convention Center in the Dead Sea, Jordan, unruffled by a call for a boycott by chemistry Nobel Laureate Roald Hoffmann of Cornell University. Hoffmann had urged fellow invited speakers last August to withdraw from the meeting because no chemists from neighboring Israel were on the list of invited speakers (C&EN, Sept. 13, p. 38). The boycott didn't get traction, and the controversy was all but a faint memory when the Jordanian national anthem signaled the conference's formal opening on Oct. 6.

Maureen Rouhi
COFFEE BREAK Busy traffic at exhibitor booths in between sessions.

"We take great pride that Jordan is hosting Eurasia for the first time in the Arab world," said Amal Al-Aboudi, secretary general of the conference. Jordan is investing significantly in education, science, and technology, and "we hope that hosting this outstanding conference will strengthen the international collaboration between Jordan and participating countries," she said.

"The idea was to move international meetings to less prosperous countries so that the youth there--students and junior scientists--can participate and interact with eminent scientists," said Bernd Michael Rode, chair of the meeting's international organizing committee. Nobel Laureates have been integral in the program of the Eurasia conferences, he noted, adding that their participation demonstrates that "chemistry cares about the development of human resources."

Maureen Rouhi
ORGANIZERS Al-Aboudi (right) and Rode.

Indeed, Taghreed Said Hassouneh, a female master's student at Jordan's Hashemite University, told C&EN that seeing successful chemists in an international setting "makes me want to be like them."

Women represent more than 50% of chemistry students in Jordan, ACS President-Elect Nancy B. Jackson told C&EN. "The Eurasia conference gives them a wonderful opportunity to be exposed to the global chemistry community."

Part of the first day's agenda was to determine whether further action was needed to address the call for a boycott, according to Rode. Other than Harvard University's Dudley Herschbach, "nobody else cancelled," Rode said. The conference's international organizing committee and advisory board "unanimously" consider the matter settled, he told C&EN.

At a panel discussion on the social responsibility of scientists, held on Oct. 7, however, Nobel Laureate Walter Kohn expressed disappointment that no Israelis are attending the meeting. "The organizing committee followed the international standard procedures for international meetings," said Mohammad Halaiqa, the moderator and Jordan's former deputy prime minister. "None of the Israelis applied and were refused."

Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © 2011 American Chemical Society
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